Valhalla (Blackpool Pleasure Beach)
The following review will go into explicit detail regarding the attraction and the surprises it may conceal. If you choose to read on, be warned that it may detract from your first ride on the attraction.
Like a poorly rehearsed
pantomime, Valhalla is ham fisted and clumsy.
Blackpool’s vision for a
spectacular dark ride started not long after the historic Funhouse was destroyed
by fire. Blackpool wanted this to be the most spectacular dark ride in the
world, and although I cannot deny this was their intention, it falls far short
of this rather noteworthy claim.
The front of the ride is like a
cliff face, over 100ft of generally featureless fake rock. A film of water
cascades down this rocky elevation down to the wooden station below.
Meanwhile, the station is
beautiful, magnificently crafted by Russian craftsmen to appear as a
Scandinavian church. Golden pieces of lumber are skilfully carved into intricate
shapes this station uses not one single nail.
On the right of the station, a
huge Viking skull with a horned hat forms the entrance to Valhalla. Water
cascades through the mouth as the Viking longboats pass through the jaw of this
With such high capacity, the
queue moves quickly. You pass a now-disused ticket kiosk, something that could
surely be used to sell the Valhalla-branded bin bags (ponchos) from before
entering the ambient station.
Rustic wooden lanterns give the
thatched ceiling a warm glow as eight-seater long boats slowly pass through the
centre of the station with the operator looking down on the ride from above.
Riders sit in pairs on benches
with heavily padded grab rails in front. There are no lap bars, something of a
surprise to be honest seeing as riders are pretty much left to their own devices
Dipping into the water outside,
the ride starts on a less than spectacular footing. You already know that the
cascading waterfall you are heading towards will drop out of your way as you
have seen this from the queue line.
As you head through the Viking
skull, you are plunged into darkness as you enter the gargantuan building.
The Pleasure Beach is quick to
remind us how they have gone for gutsy alternatives to lightweight effects. For
example, lightening isn’t a simple case of strobe lights, but a case of real
sparks licking around the inside of a metal cage. Problem is, you look and think
‘spark’, and the thought doesn’t even cross your mind that this should be
Such effects are also
unreliable. In its third season, the unreliability of effects cannot be
attributed to teething problems, and is just a general indication of how
reliable they actually are. In fact, so much onus is placed on these larger
effects, that when they don’t work, there is a huge gap in what little flow
the ride has.
The ride has no cohesion. Music
was added for its third season, and is patchy throughout and incredibly muted. I
heard it twice, and on both occasions it was epically concluding before starting
again. The ride lacks a coherent sound track, lucid sound effects and dialogue
of any sorts.
The lighting is as erratic as
the audio. Effects are often poorly lit, with overbearing shadows obscuring
scenery or effects, and large pockets of darkness.
The ride would have been a
great opportunity to explain Valhalla, the significance of it and why you are
there. It doesn’t.
Even with a vague understanding
of what Valhalla is, I have no idea how each effect falls into play. It is never
explained why we’re going through an ice storm, or why the scenery around us
burns. My equivocal knowledge of the Viking afterlife was further clouded on
riding Valhalla, and raised questions in my head of whether the attraction is
the journey to Valhalla or Valhalla itself. A clued-up reader of Coaster Kingdom
informs me it is the former, which somehow makes sense, but it seems a shame
that in amongst the generally irrelevant marketing spiel that accompanies this
ride, this isn’t made clear. Basically, I’d far rather know what the ride
represents (moreover have the ride explain this for me) than to be told it cost
£15m to build.
The ride is devoid of any
characters, meaning it is a very bleak inside relying on the scenery to
entertain. With effects being so unreliable - and each vault containing only one
major effect - it is easy for you to pass through with precious little to look
Whilst Valhalla tries its best
to completely indulge you in rich and dramatic effects, at the summit of the
ride you head briefly outside which considering the minutes before have been a
rather confusing medley of all things Viking, it seems a somewhat harsh
interruption to be afforded a view of Ice Blast and the Flying Machine. Water
cascades out of view, and just as you think the brittle stalagmites in front
will crumble away, you stop.
This would of course be an
excellent opportunity to entertain you with an effect – you are stationary,
after all. However, the ride takes on an almost industrial feel with no theming
what-so-ever, and sitting on the side a ride operator sits in his BPB-issued
boiler suit, shouting conversation across the hall to a colleague.
We gently roll backwards down a
small unthemed drop back into the darkness. Another unthemed turnaround sends us
back into the patchwork of effects.
Although the backwards drop is
quite frankly dull, the other two drops are used to their full potential.
The first is my favourite,
where you plunge from the inky blackness almost without warning down a steep
drop. As you think you are going to level out, you plunge through a rolling blue
mist. Thinking you have plunged underwater, holding your breath, water hits the
front of your boat, sloshing over the front and sides as slow to a slow gait
through a rolling tunnel of water.
You get reasonably wet, but in
the front at least, it isn’t the drops where you get wettest. Many effects
including the water vortex entail dumping unfeasible amounts of water on you,
and as the boat turns each corner with little or no grace, water rolls over the
side of the boat.
These are complete
distractions, and at the points where cold air is blown into your face, grossly
The ride has no sense of drama.
For the majority of the ride, you’re following a maze of corridors often
separated by doors. Despite an apparent £15 million being spent on the ride,
the boat bashes into these stiff rubber doors. Even the doors on Alice in
Wonderland open auto-magically. Back seat riders may be thumped on the shoulders
as the door quickly closes behind your longboat.
The rooms are small and don’t
open up into large halls. This is a shame, and no creativity has really been
used to open the ride up like on Pirates of the Caribbean. With everything being
on such a small scale, the sense of grandeur portrayed in the parks’ avalanche
of marketing claims really never materialises.
Where the majority of the ride
sticks to this cautious and formulaic principle, the finale clearly stands out
and brings the ride out from the dregs of forgetability. Something seems so
right about literally dropping into a finale (as visitors to Professor Burp’s
fizzy pop factory in Chessington will testify) and Valhalla perfects this effect
to quite astonishing levels.
As you drop, flames licking
over the surface of the water below recede only just in time before your boat
charges into the water, Viking longboats on fire around the perimeter of this
As you quickly slalom through
this cavern, flames spontaneously erupt from the burning shipwrecks as fire
rolls across the surface of the water to great effect.
On the whole, I find Valhalla a
forgettable experience. It has no emotion and no real drama about it. Without
characters and a progressive story line, the ride has no flow and effects do not
effectively fit in with surroundings.
Even if the ride was brimful of
spellbinding effects, distractions like the outside ledge before the backwards
drop, water sloshing into the boat and wind blowing in your face are overly
intrusive and mean you can’t succumb to any drama the ride has.
Effects are integrated poorly
into their surroundings and do not flow into the next. Poor lighting and patchy
music makes the ride even more disjointed.
2/5 Marcus Sheen